July 16, 2011
Formal Observation Analysis
Although it was rather nerve-racking, I find yesterday’s formal observation, and particularly its consequent debrief, to be incredibly informative and valuable as I attempt to reach my full potential as a teacher. The feedback I received shed much light on the weaknesses I had trouble articulating and the strengths I did not know I possessed. I noticed that my focus was clearer today as I was preparing lesson plans for next week: I knew precisely where to draw my attention, and hopefully my efforts will show in my future classroom performance.
The two key questions I need to continue asking myself are how I can check for students’ understanding in the course of the class, especially if I am doing a direct teacher presentation, and how I can improve my efforts of tying the lesson and unit objectives with every activity students perform and every piece of information they receive.
Assessing students’ understanding as they are engaged in the learning process is my particular weakness. Since yesterday’s observation, I have been thinking of ways to improve my skills, and here are a couple of ideas I have at the moment. I think I will try to do more “whips” in the course of the class, calling on everyone to summarize what they have just learned in a picture, a word, or a short phrase. I believe I will do more student-centered presentations when students themselves serve as teaching experts. And I think I may ask students to create their own formative assessments.
Setting transparent and ubiquitous objectives is my second most pressing goal. Shamefully, until now I never thought of objectives as something that needs to be explicitly present in my classroom. I knew where the class was going, and I knew what the students needed to learn and know in the end, but it never occurred to me that setting, following, addressing, and evaluating daily objectives are absolutely instrumental for students’ understanding and for sharpening my own focus. Today, as I was thinking of activities and presentations for the following week, I kept asking myself if they had a direct relationship with the objectives I set for the unit and the lessons, and if that relationship was transparent and logical for my students. When I think of my DTPs now, I am more conscious of the volume of content I will be presenting, focusing on the facts that have a direct relationship with my objectives and discarding what may be frivolous, if fascinating for a history fanatic, information. I strongly believe this will deepen students’ understanding instead of creating a broad yet very superficial factual base.
Thus, I find yesterday’s formal observation a helpful formative assessment of my performance. It gave me a clear understanding of the kind of teacher I am and the kind of teacher I hope to become.